A distant and formative memory for me...
... even though I'm 'so young.'
The night before I was born, Garcia, Weir, Lesh, Hart & co. were inhabiting the space of the Seattle Center Coliseum in another epic show that included so many of my favorites - Sugaree, New Minglewood Blues, Playin', El Paso, S. Blue, Mexicali, and of course the always-magnificent Frank's Tower - as well as some rarer gems like Passenger and Don't Ease Me In. The band was awesome that night, full of that rhythmic power and perfect sync and stride that they so often hit during that period of the late '70s which I feel, perhaps with some bias, is their golden era. Of course I wasn't there yet; but it's a sign of this band's power that I feel as though the show that happened the night before I popped out into this world is a big part of the reason why I exist.
All this is ten years ahead of the moment we're looking at right here: the twenty-second of April, 1969. By now, you know that, far from being there, I wouldn't be *anywhere* for more than a good ten years. That's not why I love this show, why it means so very much to me, why it's part of me in a way that very, very little music is.
See, I grew up in a small town in Colorado - the sort of place that remembers, or at least remembered, the Dead and their mammoth influence, a place where aging hippies generally went to raise their kids; so this mythology was all around me. Even so my body rejected it, like a youngster's body generally rejects the things he's raised with; there weren't that many *certified* fans around anyhow. My thing, back then in the early '90s, was Phish. Heh. Until a grungy guy I met around the record store had a long conversation with me. He agreed that the boys from Vermont were good and all, but he got a faraway look in his eye when he told me that the Dead were 'trying to say something more spiritual, something that isn't in words.'
The next day he brought me three tapes. The other two were very good '73 and '74 shows which I remember fondly as being a great introduction to a very rocking and enjoyable band. However, this show, the show from the twenty-second of April, nineteen sixty-nine, was a revelation. I remember as though it were a moment ago huddling close to my little tape player all alone downstairs in my room, popping this tape in at the beginning of the second side (which for some reason happened to be cued up when I got it home) and hearing the haunting first notes of Mountains of the Moon, and then listening to the music give way to Dark Star. This music - it wasn't just from another generation, it was from another planet! I don't know why it made me shiver to think how *old* this tape had been - when you're fourteen years old, everything seems ancient and strange, but the thought that people had been guarding this recording, passing it from person to person, transferring it through technologies long dead that I didn't really understand so that the spirit could be kept alive and finally bestowed upon me, gave me a sacred initiation into eternal rites which purified me and made me a more complete human being. This was my thing, sitting in my room all alone; these guys, these crazy, thoughtful, rambling, ecstatic and soulful guys, separated from me by generations and by years and even by geography, understood how it felt to be me, and had something they could give me just because I happened to be human. Since those days, I've never been able to explain fully to people what that meant to me; it's so personal, and yet it's a membership in a family, a community that is built not on the apparent bonds of proximity but on invisible bonds of the spirit. I never saw the Grateful Dead live; but I *lived* the Grateful Dead live, and while I would give major parts of my body (an eyeball, for instance - I'm dead serious, I am) to have seen them play at any stage of their career, I know that even merely listening to their tapes I'm actually a part of something much larger than myself. That spiritual initiation into the rites of the sacred and divine groove is a comfort not only because such rites are rare in our jaded times, but also because that sense of belonging and of true reality is actually the center of human life.
This show is more to me than a concert, although that's really what it is in the world of simple reality. This show is a sacred object existing in the realm of the divine. I know that, for once in my life, I can say this and expect that somebody understands what I mean. Thank you, everyone who was there through the years keeping the flame alive: the band, but also all the people that came together and made this beautiful thing called The Grateful Dead possible. Otherwise, young people like me would have far less guidance, far less spirit, far less soul, and most of all far less of the touch of the rite of the sacred.
Hope this isn't too long. Had to get that out. This show really changed my life. Thank you so very deeply, archive.org
, for giving me back this moment that meant so much to me.